Voltairine de Cleyre (1866-1912) on the Paris Commune.Continue reading Voltairine de Cleyre: The Paris Commune
In this essay, Voltairine de Cleyre (1866-1912) recounts her life and her introduction to socialist and anarchist ideas. It is a lively tale of one of the most sincere and honest personalities in the history of anarchism.
Voltairine de Cleyre wrote: “Through witnessing these unexpected acts and their still more unanticipated results, I have gradually worked my way to the conviction that, while I cannot see the logic of forcible physical resistance (entailing perpetual retaliations until one of the offended finally refuses to retaliate), there are others who have reached the opposite conclusions, who will act according to their convictions, and who are quite as much part and parcel of the movement towards human liberty as those who preach peace at all cost.”
From the birth of the Church, out of the womb of Fear and the fatherhood of Ignorance, it has taught the inferiority of woman. In one form or another through the various mythical legends of the various mythical creeds, runs the undercurrent of the behef in the fall of man through the persuasion of woman, her subjective condition as punishment, her natural vileness, total depravity, etc.; and from the days of Adam until now the Christian Church, with which we live specially to deal, has made Woman the excuse, the scapegoat for the evil deeds of man. So thoroughly has this idea permeated Society that number”, of those who have utterly repudiated the Church, are nevertheless soaked in this stupefying narcotic to true morality. So pickled is the male creation with the vinegar of Authoritarianism, that even those who have gone further and repudiated tire State still cling to the god, Society as it is, still hug the old theological idea that they are to be “heads of the family” — to that wonderful formula “of simple proportion” that “Man is the lead of the Woman even as Christ is the head of the Church.” No longer than a week since, an Anarchist (?) said to me, “I will be boss in my own house” — a “Communist-Anarchist,” if you please, who doesn’t beheve in “my house.” About a year ago a noted libertarian speaker said, in my presence, that his sister, who possessed a fine voice and had joined a concert troupe, should “stay at home with her children; that is her place.” The old Church idea! This man was a Socialist, and since an Anarchist; yet his highest idea for woman was serfhood to husband and children, in the present mockery called “home.” Stay at Ironic, ye malcontents! Be patient, obedient, submissive! Darn our socks, mend our shirts, wash our dishes, get our meals, wait on us and mind the children! Your fine voices are not to delight the public nor yourselves; your inventive genius is not to work, your fine art taste is not to be Cultivated, your business facilities are not to be developed; you made the great mistake of being born with them, suffer for your folly! You are women, therefore housekeepers, servants, waiters, and child’s nurses!
Voltairine de Cleyre, Sex Slavery
I am! The ages on the ages roll:
And what I am, I was, and I shall be:
By slow growth filling higher Destiny,
And widening, ever, to the widening Goal.
I am the Stone that slept; down deep in me
That old, old sleep has left its centurine trace;
I am the plant that dreamed; and lo! still see
The dream-life dwelling on the Human Face.
I slept, I dreamed, I wakened: I am Man!
The hut grows Palaces; the depths breed light;
Still on! Forms pass; but Form yields kinglier Might!
The singer, dying where his song began,
In Me yet lives; and yet again shall he
Unseal the lips of greater songs To Be;
For mine the thousand tongues of Immortality.
Voltairine de Cleyre, January, 1892